OPPOSITION and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness, the People's National Party (PNP) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have paid tribute to iconic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who died Tuesday afternoon, aged 58, from cancer. Following are excerpts from their tributes:
Holness reacted with sadness at the news of the passing of President Chavez and remembered him as "a friend and champion of the developing nations of Latin America and the Caribbean".
"He was passionate in his beliefs and conviction and his death will certainly leave a void not easily filled. Today, we salute Mr Chavez for the passion with which he advanced the agenda of developing countries, encouraging us to deepen ties amongst ourselves and co-operate for our development.
"The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party sends its heartfelt condolences to the Chavez family and the people of the Republic of Venezuela as they mourn the loss of their father and leader."
The People's National Party said news of Socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death has brought deep sadness.
"The Caribbean and Latin American region has lost one of the most committed, vocal and inspirational leaders who will be remembered for his unceasing willingness to challenge the status quo and take a stand against inequality and injustice.
"Comrade Chavez will be remembered as a champion of the people who used his country's vast oil wealth to address the long-standing inequity in Venezuela, providing housing, health and a host of other social services to protect and empower the lives of the underprivileged. Indeed, World Bank data indicate that "extreme poverty" rate in Venezuela fell from 23.4 per cent in 1999 to 8.5 per cent just a decade later.
"Additionally, under Chavez's leadership, Venezuelan college enrolment more than doubled and the number of people eligible for public pensions quadrupled. At the same time, under his brand of socialism, Venezuelan GDP more than doubled and both infant mortality and unemployment almost halved in Chavez's first decade in office.
"His strident efforts at radical change went beyond Venezuela. Following the footsteps of the Venezuelan & regional hero, Simón Bolívar, President Chavez worked hard for a strong, united, and prosperous Latin American and Caribbean region and for that we are grateful for his tangible contributions.
"During President Chavez's tenure in office, Venezuela brought to bear significant economic and social impact, especially in light of wide scale initiatives such as the PetroCaribe arrangement which sought to ensure the stability and energy security of most economies in the Caribbean and Central America.
"We mourn with our comrades of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have lost a patriarch, and Jamaica has lost a close and treasured Comrade."
Caricom Chairman Michel Martelly said that the name of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would be "etched in the history of this region".
In a note of condolence to the Government of Venezuela, Martelly who is also president of Haiti, said President Chavez had opened a new chapter in relations between the countries of Caricom and Venezuela "with his generosity and deep interest in the welfare of the peoples of the Community".
"His outstretched hand to support our countries during a time of great challenge will never be forgotten, in particular the generous assistance rendered by Venezuela to my country, Haiti, following the earthquake of 2010, as well as to other member states of the Community.
"His desire to improve the lives of the less fortunate in his country, the Caribbean and in Latin America was the hallmark of his political life and ensured that his name would be etched in the history of this region.
"May the Government and people of Venezuela and the family of Mr Chavez find solace in the memory of a leader who successfully sought to change the lives of many for the better. I am confident that the inner strength and resilience of the Venezuelan people will ensure that they continue to build the society for which Hugo Chavez strived."